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Stars 4, Bruins 1

Opening-night fritters

Stars outshine lackluster Bruins

DALLAS - Upon perusal of the record book, there is little in terms of humiliation that can match last year's season-opening 8-3 stinker against Florida.

That was one of the few encouraging points for the Bruins last night.

Before a sellout crowd of 18,532 at the American Airlines Center, the Bruins dropped a disappointing 4-1 decision to the Stars, who took advantage of critical defensive breakdowns and some so-so goaltending by Manny Fernandez, who made his debut in a black-and-gold sweater.

"Disappointed," said Fernandez, who allowed four goals on 18 shots. "That's the only thing that comes to mind right now. It's tough.

"I'm trying to find reasons why I shouldn't be mentally ready for the beginning of the season. I needed to battle through today and I wasn't able to do that. I wasn't able to make the saves for my team. There's not much more to be said."

Fernandez, the club's biggest on-ice offseason acquisition, looked sharp at times, stopping two point-blank deflections by Dallas captain Brenden Morrow in the first period. Fernandez moved smoothly and appeared to communicate with his defensemen, and he said that physically, everything was fine.

But Fernandez's mental game looks like it needs tweaking, no more so than on Dallas's third and fourth goals.

The Stars took a three-goal lead at 8:49 of the second period. The play started after defenseman Sergei Zubov, one of the slickest skaters in the NHL, dangled through Marco Sturm and Chuck Kobasew to gain the Bruins' blue line.

Zubov, having blown the doors off his checkers, found Morrow at the right circle. Fernandez shifted left a hair too far, and Morrow buzzed a shot over the goalie's right shoulder. Several minutes after the goal, the Dallas fans behind the Boston net kicked off a "Thank you, Manny" chant.

On the fourth goal, Fernandez got a piece of Zubov's power-play shot from the point. But he didn't squeeze his pads enough, allowing the puck to cross the line.

"I don't think it's a physical thing with me," said Fernandez. "It's mental preparation. I've got to work on that. I've got to try to focus more and do the little things right."

Trailing, 3-0, in the second, the Bruins scored their first goal of the season after the Stars were nabbed with too many men on the ice. The No. 1 power-play unit (Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, Peter Schaefer, Glen Murray) cycled effectively, keeping the puck in the Dallas zone.

With 21 seconds remaining on the power play, Bergeron canned a goal at 17:59. Savard started the play, finding Schaefer at the lip of the crease. Schaefer made a clever behind-the-back pass across the crease to Bergeron, who beat goalie Marty Turco (24 saves).

In the first period, the Stars opened the scoring at 15:19. After some good cycling that left the Bruins scrambling in their own zone, point man Matt Niskanen gained the puck at the left point. The defenseman spotted Joel Lundqvist in an opening in the slot, feeding him with a pass the forward one-timed past Fernandez.

The Stars doubled their lead in the second period, taking advantage of the Bruins' inability to clear the puck from their zone. With the Bruins out of position, forward Niklas Hagman went one-on-one with Fernandez, tucking a backhander past the goalie at 2:41.

"Couple breakdowns," said Andrew Alberts, one of five Bruins (along with Andrew Ference, P.J. Axelsson, David Krejci, and Phil Kessel) tagged with a minus-2 rating. "But if you take the game as a whole, I think it was a lot more controlled than it was last year."

After the Stars scored their second goal, two of Boston's fourth-liners tried to send a message. First, Shawn Thornton went toe-to-toe with former Anaheim teammate Todd Fedoruk. On the following faceoff, Milan Lucic, making his NHL debut, dropped the gloves with Brad Winchester, engaging in a drawn-out scrap with the Dallas forward.

"They went out there and responded with the message that you guys aren't going to walk all over us," coach Claude Julien said. "Those are things you can put in the positive side of tonight. Those kinds of things go a long way in getting the respect of your teammates and your coaches as well."

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